CITY OF MOUNT VERNON CORPORATION COUNSEL LORETTA HOTTINGER
The City of Mount Vernon will be better off without Corporation Counsel Loretta Hottinger. She has transformed the Law Department into a cesspool. She has put her own self interest before the interest of Mount Vernon taxpayers. Mount Vernon Exposed earlier this month reported that Hottinger while as City Council voted on the resolution that authorized the unlawful dispensing of $39,000 of taxpayer funds to a law firm unlawfully retained by the Mount Vernon City Council while Hottinger was the President.
Judge Rory J. Bellantoni stated in his ruling that the law firm of Wilson, Elser, did not have authority from the Mount Vernon City Council to represent the City Council for the pilot programs. The law firm was retained by the City Council to sue Ravi Batra, the Pro Bono attorney retained by former Mayor Ernie Davis.
The Comptroller’s Office quickly realized that the City of Mount Vernon taxpayers may have fraudulently paid the law firm of Wilson and Elser. This activity was aided and abetted by current Corporation Counsel Loretta Hottinger. 1st Deputy Comptroller Tom Rajala asked Hottinger for an opinion on how to proceed in recouping the $39,000 of questionable payments to the law firm of Wilson, Elser. In her opinion Hottinger stated that the Judge “failed to understand clear principles of law” when he rendered his decision. Hottinger apparently wants to be judge, jury, and executioner. Mount Vernon Exposed has learned that several residents are presently commencing legal action against Loretta Hottinger to force the Courts to compel her to recoup the fraudulent payments to the law firm of Wilson and Elser.
Despite the ruling on this matter, the City Council and the Board of Estimate being advised by their ringleader Loretta Hottinger have approved ordinances and resolutions “demanding” that Comptroller Maureen Walker issue payments to the law firm Wilson, Elser. In one such ordinance there was even language stating that there was a 10% discount if the invoices were paid by December 3rd. Mount Vernon Exposed has learned that the invoices are still unpaid. Mount Vernon Exposed hopes that Comptroller Walker never pays these illegal, fraudulent invoices.
Freedom of Information Requests
When Mayor Young took office on January 1st, 2008, he promised to bring transparency to City Hall. As with everything else that has came out of the mouth of Mayor Young, this too was a lie. New York State Freedom of Information Law States that a government body has 5 days to acknowledge the receipt of FOIL request and give an estimated time frame on when the FOIL will be fulfilled. After a date is provided, then the government body has an additional 20 days to fulfill the request. If the request is denied or unanswered after 20 then the person making the request can file an appeal with the denying agency. If the appeal still goes unanswered then the person can commence an Article 78 proceeding The City of Mount Vernon systematically violates the Freedom of Information Law. Instead, City Officials use the FOIL as a means to see what the public is inquiring about. Then the appropriate personnel are notified and all the necessary steps are taken to cover up any wrongdoings in City Hall.
Mount Vernon Exposed currently has over 50 unanswered FOIL requests in City Hall that have gone unanswered and that are way beyond appeal status.
Corporation Counsel Loretta Hottinger Opinion on illegal payment to law firm
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MOUNT VERNON COUNCIL DIRECTS COUNCIL TO PAY LEGAL BILLS
MARCH 12TH, 2009
MOUNT VERNON - The City Council yesterday joined the mayor's call for Comptroller Maureen Walker to pay a series of outstanding legal bills to a law firm doing work for the council.
"This has absolutely nothing to do with politics or personalities," Council President William Randolph said. "This is about upholding the integrity of our charter."
The issue at hand deals with a law firm that the City Council had hired to look into agreements with developers for payments in lieu of taxes. Since November 2007, the firm - Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker - has billed Mount Vernon $84,567. Only one bill for $14,121 was paid.
The City Council, during its regular meeting yesterday, passed a resolution agreeing to join the firm in filing an Article 78 against Walker demanding that she pay the bills in their entirety. Randolph was asked about the advantage of having the City Council joining the law firm in the Article 78 against Walker.
"We hired the law firm," Randolph said. "It would be hypocritical of us if we didn't join them to see that they get paid."
Several council members emphasized that their decision was not personal and that they supported the resolution after extensive deliberation.
"We are aware of the implications of this matter, and we feel that it is the appropriate thing to do," Councilman Steven Horton said.
In January, a report by Inspector General Harry Stokes said Walker had abused her power by not paying the law firm's bills. Walker on Tuesday called for Stokes' firing, disputing the report and questioning his qualifications to investigate city departments and officials.
"It appears that the City Council is working for and on behalf of the inspector general," Walker said yesterday. "Once again, the concept is repeated over and over again."
Walker said she was not refusing to pay the legal bills. Her concerns, she said, were procedural ones, saying the firm wasn't separating in its bills charges to the city on separate legal matters. Walker said she had not seen the resolution.
She pointed to the fact she had prepared a city check to the firm on three separate occasions this month for $32,115.01 that Mayor Clinton Young said he would not sign. Young said this week he did not sign the check because the total in the check was not the amount approved of by both the City Council and the Board of Estimate and Contract.
The council voted 4-0 yesterday to pass the resolution. The council's fifth member, J. Yuhanna Edwards, said he was abstaining from the vote for "philosophical differences." He said he wasn't against the resolution but felt the matter should be discussed further.
"An abstention is not a nay vote, but I don't want to go along just to be going along," Edwards said.
Several residents yesterday encouraged the City Council to bring an end to the matter, saying the issue fuels negative perceptions of the city.
"I'm tired of reading (these stories) about the city of Mount Vernon," resident Mary Harris said. "We need to get our act together, and I ask that this legislative body to somehow work with the executive body to see what needs to be done and do it."
Reach Aman Ali at email@example.com or 914-694-5063.